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Showing blog posts for Giulietta
Alfa Romeo Giulietta: Having the cask full and the wife drunk
Freelance Contributing Writer
21 July 2010
Let’s be honest here. Who doesn’t like a bit of car transporter spotting?
You know the situation. Pulling out to overtake one of those giant car-bearing lorries on the motorway, you have a sneaky scan to see if there’s anything on there worthy of special attention. Often, it’ll just be a load of smashed-up old Saxos ready for the scrapheap; on other occasions, though, you may be lucky enough to spot some newly-released metal that hasn’t yet been birthed onto the roads.
I was lucky enough to come across an absolute gem the other day without much effort at all as it happens. While loafing around Modena station waiting for a train, I was taken aback when the general hubbub of the place was broken for a brief spell by a railway transporter, loaded with what must have been getting on for two hundred brand-new Alfa Romeo Giuliettas, speeding up from the Alfa factory in Lazio to Milan, from where they will by now have been scattered off into different parts of Europe.
The Giulietta is a massive, massive car for Alfa
In the event, I was pretty darn excited myself, standing as I did for nigh-on two full minutes with eyes wide and jaw agape as many, many tonnes of Giulietta tore by at high speed. My wonderment, though, was a mere morsel compared with the banquet of excitement that was being enjoyed by the Italians around me. Seriously, with the amount of pointing and shouting going on, you'd have thought it was Signor Berlusconi on his way to give the AC Milan players a
masterclass in footballing tactics
This reaction demonstrated pretty clearly the excitement surrounding the Giulietta, but also its importance for both the country and the brand.
There's definitely no use in skirting around the fact: the Giulietta is a massive, massive car for Alfa. As the central point of a range of cars that epitomises all the passion, all the flair of Italian motoring that has captured the imagination of most of this earth for decades, its success or otherwise could be crucial to the future shape of our motoring world. Plus of course, it marks the debut of Fiat's new C-Evoplatform (nothing to do with hot Mitsubishis or rubbishy Punto facelifts apparently), which in time will provide the basis for the next Bravo, as well as a future Lancia/Chrysler Delta hatchback mashup, err, thing.
Ok, so we all know the familiar Alfa template which has been the wine of petrolheads for decades: heart-meltingly good looks, stunning engines, gorgeous interiors, and a penchant for unreliability and widespread flaws that would make British Rail proud. These less desirable qualities are known to
as 'character', while the more objective among us generally refer to them as 'crap'.
Over the years, these reliability problems have tended to be balanced out by the sheer heartstring-pulling beauty of the cars, which has acted as a makeshift 'get out of jail free' card for the company. Honestly, if the likes of Volvo had been producing cars with the flimsiness of the typical Alfa, they would have been history long ago.
In more recent times, however, the excuses have begun to wear thin. Take, for example, the breathtaking Brera coupé and its convertible sister, the Spider. These two are the embodiment of all that beautiful-but-flawed Alfa-ness, and in times gone by would have sold in droves on looks alone. But this is 2010. Buyers are demanding more and more from their cars.
The fact is that you can now get the Volkswagen Scirocco – a car that almost matches the Brera for cool factor, but absolutely trounces it on ride, handling, interior quality, you name it – on your driveway for a lot less than the Alfa. The VW frankly embarrasses its Italian rival, there's no other way to put it. And this hasn't been lost on Alfa's home market, either. I've been living over here for ten months now, and I'm not kidding when I say that the 'Roccos I've spotted in that time outnumber Breras by about three to one.
Which is why the Giulietta needs to be good. And I mean really good. Not just on the surface, but in a way that shows that Alfa has at least thought about how the thing might go round corners and deal with potholes. In a way that reflects actual money being spent on interior materials, and with a bit of practicality thrown in there too.
And early reports from proper journalists who've driven the Giulietta suggest that Alfa might – just might – have pulled it off.
Yes, you still get the lovely exterior – the nose is perhaps a tad iffy, but details such as the LED lighting and hidden rear door handles make it instantly more desirable than your neighbours’ Golf – but encased inside this seems to be a thing of real quality, right down to the action of the toggle switches on the centre console. Apparently they've nailed the chassis, too, combining an involving drive with a ride and refinement that won't have Granny reaching for the door handle within half a minute of setting off.
Now, there are bound to be some wearers of rose-tinted specs out there (come on, you know who you are), who will argue that this heralds the end of the brand as we know it; that making an Alfa that works and actually does things well is like a Beatles record with no imperfections or blemishes to the sound quality – in other words, bereft of character. And, to an extent, I'd agree. Heavens, the 156 is still one of the cars I most aspire to owning at some point, whether it falls apart after a day or not. But we have to move with the times. In the age of the iPod, you see, people crave perfection – in music, in cars, in whatever.
Which means that Alfa can no longer afford to hide a shoddy package beneath a pretty body. The reality is that the brand is still turning over losses, so if it is to progress – or even just survive – then cars like the Giulietta are the only way forward. If they can repeat the trick with the forthcoming Giulia, while still retaining that do-anything-to-own-one desirability as its trump card, then we'll really be talking.
There’s an Italian saying –
avere la botte piena e la moglie ubriaca
– which translates as ‘to have the cask full and the wife drunk’. Having your cake and eating it, in other words.
The Giulietta is the start of this for Alfa-lovers. Hopefully there’s much more to come.
Having your cake and eating it
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